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Reassurance during uncertain times for doctors

26 September 2022

Graham Craig, Medical Protection's Business Development Director for South Africa offers an update on how Medical Protection is supporting healthcare professionals in light of the situation at EthiQal.

By now readers will be well aware that Constantia Insurance Company Limited (CICL) is to be liquidated, a development which will have a significant impact on healthcare professionals insured by their medical indemnity division, EthiQal.

As an organisation that has been protecting doctors’ interests in South Africa for more than 65 years, we have seen providers come and go, and it is not in the healthcare profession’s interests to see such instability and uncertainty when doctors should be able to focus on providing healthcare to patients. 

CICL was placed in provisional curatorship by the Prudential Authority due to CICL failing to meet its regulatory capital requirements. The curator – in consultation with independent experts – analysed CICL’s financial position and announced that CICL was insolvent.

While the situation is changing rapidly, at the time of writing the decision to liquidate CICL had been confirmed in Court. Last week the Reserve Bank issued a statement regarding the winding up of CICL, in which it noted the significant deterioration of CICL’s financial position. All active policies have been cancelled, with the last day of cover being 30 September 2022.

With developments seemingly every couple of days, including the news of a private investment group potentially stepping in to enable EthiQal to continue operating, Medical Protection remains focused on how the developments affect doctors.

Sadly, the effects of CICL’s liquidation could be felt by many across the healthcare profession – including doctors, claimants, brokers, employees, and expert witnesses to name but a few.

Given the 30 September deadline set by the curator, doctors insured by EthiQal have needed to quickly consider what they should do to protect themselves against claims. 
Doctors are understandably also concerned about the financial risk to them should they receive a claim in relation to any incident that might have occurred during their time with the insurer.

Medical Protection has taken hundreds of calls from doctors impacted by EthiQal’s situation, and the concern is showing no sign of abating. We sympathise with these doctors and understand the uncertainty they may be experiencing around their professional protection.

We are doing everything we can to best support doctors at this difficult time, including the option of offering membership. All doctors can apply for membership with MPS and applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The situation serves as a reminder of the value of stability and security when it comes to protecting doctors into the future.

In normal times, professional protection may not be a subject that all doctors spend a lot of time thinking about, particularly when they have been coping with increased work pressures. But there are various factors to consider in order to ensure that doctors have protection that is right for themselves. The indemnity provider that doctors are considering switching to should be able to explain how they will protect members and meet their needs.

A key consideration should be whether their indemnity or insurance provider is an organisation focused on their interests with a healthy and robust financial position, which would provide doctors with long term peace of mind so they can practise with confidence.

Members of Medical Protection are part of an organisation run for and owned by members; our focus is on protecting members’ careers and reputations, not generating profits. Members pay subscriptions and if they face a complaint, claim, regulatory investigation or any other matter, they have a right to request assistance. We have proudly supported members in South Africa for the past 65 years and the professional needs of more than 31,000 members in South Africa. We have withstood many changes and challenges, while several other providers have come and gone. 

It is important that doctors consider more than simply price when it comes to their professional protection. Providers cannot charge lower rates and still cover the same risks, whilst also maintaining a high level of service. Ultimately, doctors need to be reassured they are with an organisation they can trust to support them in the long term.
EthiQal’s situation could understandably also cause alarm and confusion for doctors who are not insured by EthiQal – concern that the same situation could occur for other providers. 

For our members, we can reassure them that Medical Protection is not at risk of facing the same. Medical Protection has a diverse operating model which operates on an international scale and, as such, we are not exposed to the same levels of risk or external pressures as many other providers. 

Our approach is one of sustainability. Medical Protection sets subscription rates to reflect the true cost of protecting our members from the medical risks associated with their area of practice, and to ensure we are here to meet our commitment to members long into the future. With such a significant presence in the market for so long, we understand the risk and can price to provide sustainable protection without having to generate profits for shareholders. As a mutual organisation, our members are our owners, not banks or equity companies looking for a quick return.

This long-term sustainability is important as it is often years between an incident happening, a complaint or claim being made, and the resolution of a case. Once again, we empathise that these are especially uncertain times for many doctors, and many readers will feel concerned about the potential impact on their careers and reputations.

Medical Protection has a proud track record of supporting members in South Africa. We have a strong and expanding local team working for our members in South Africa.

Based out of our Pretoria office, our large team supports members directly with cases and claims, legal services, as well as medicolegal and dentolegal services. Our expanded presence in South Africa reflects our commitment to getting as close to members as possible, providing a personal service that supports them in dealing with issues of local relevance and urgency.

We are committed to supporting medical practitioners and the wider medical profession and, where we can, support doctors directly impacted by the situation with EthiQal.

All doctors are welcome to contact Medical Protection for advice or to apply for membership – all applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. For enquiries please email [email protected].